Are You Going Away With No Word Of Farewell?
Park Kriner Vows To Keep Parks Place Open After Omni Enterprises Walks Out On Supermarkets All Over Alaska
It didn't just leave the Glennallen Store in the lurch. It left all of its Omni stores, all over Alaska. Most notable was an Omni store known as "Swanson's" in the coastal town of Bethel. On March 9th, there were news stories all over the internet and television. The Swanson's store, which had cost the Bethel Native Corporation $20 million to build, and which opened to the public last summer with enormous fanfare, immediately began selling all the Omni inventory at 50% off, drawing people into the store to spend thousands of dollars. The Bethel store had featured a large food court, a floral section, and even an indoor grill (kind of like a high-end university food service.) Plus, two movie theaters.
|A sign over the front door at Park's Place shows its history.|
First it was "Park's Place." Then it was "Omni." Now it's "IGA."
It'll remain an IGA-supplied store, according to owner Park Kriner, who has taken it back.
The store in Big Lake owned by Omni, known as the Big Lake IGA (and previously known as 'Steve's Food Boy') was also abandoned. It left 25 employees worried about their future. But, by March 19th, Three Bears -- a statewide chain that once ran a supermarket in Valdez -- was reported to have stepped in to take over the Big Lake IGA.
The future of Parks Place is not certain yet, but Park Kriner, its longtime owner, said he is restocking the store, and will not close it. On March 21st, the new credit card machines hadn't been put in place yet, so customers were being asked to pay cash in the meantime during the transition.
American Village of Alaska, owners of the Hub and the Caribou, built the store. It's a "new" store. The original Parks Place building, which dated back into Pipeline years, is across the highway, towards the junction with the Richardson. The old building currently houses apartments and a laundry.
Park Kriner said several outside companies are looking at taking over the store.
There aren't many Alaska roadside supermarkets the size of Parks Place -- or as comprehensive in what they offer. Interestingly, most "large" rural supermarkets north of Anchorage are restricted to the eastern side of the state, where the Copper Valley lies. That's because most of the population base in Interior Alaska between Wasilla-Palmer and Fairbanks is over on our side of the state -- not in the well-known "Railbelt," which is very sparsely populated, and includes the towns of Talkeetna, Trapper Creek, Cantwell, Denali Park, Healy & Nenana.
There are 4 substantial supermarkets in Eastern Alaska: In Delta, Tok, Valdez and Glennallen -- all population bases with year-round communities.
There's an IGA in Delta Junction that's relatively large. There's the Three Bears Store -- the flagship of
|Fresh fruits and vegetables at Parks Place (Omni) IGA|
That's a lot of supermarkets for this side of Alaska. It's a tangible sign of two things: A relatively large population base, and year-round stability.
On the Parks Highway, there are far longer stretches without a supermarket, once you get north of Wasilla. The Big Lake IGA is followed by another supermarket, the independently-run Cubby's, at the corner of the junction to Talkeetna, 100 miles north of Anchorage. Then -- for hundreds of miles, until you get to Fairbanks -- there is no large supermarket of any kind; only several small gas station convenience stores, and the venerable, but relatively modest Coghill's General Store in Nenana. The Parks Highway does not have the year-round population base that the communities on the Glenn and Richardson Highways have, and even the (seasonal) region near Denali Park can't support a supermarket comparable to any of the ones in Tok, Delta, Glennallen and Valdez.